Saturday, 5 November 2016

Why Trains Matter to Mental Health

Yesterday morning, around 11.15am, I was standing on the platform at London Bridge in floods of tears. Some background: I had arrived on the platform at approximately 10.15am, ready to board my train for the short journey home to Catford at 10.25am. Then the boards changed to say it was delayed by three minutes, I rolled my eyes. I've never been on a Southeastern service that either departed or arrived on time. Then it was delayed by 11 minutes. I rolled my eyes harder. 'Keep on Southeasterning, Southeastern, I thought.' Then it disappeared from the boards all together. There were no announcements. Station staff didn't have a clue what was going on. I tweeted  Southeastern, they said hang tight, the train's on its way, promise. It got to 10.40am and the board showed the train would arrive at 10.42am, then 10.46am. Then the train that was supposed to leave at 10.40am was cancelled, sensibly at this point, but still no information on the 10.25 other than 'please listen to announcements for information'.

At 10.45am there was an announcement saying our train was awaiting signal clearance at Cannon  Street and would be on the move shortly. After disappearing and re-appearing on the boards several times it was back, with a promised departure time of 10.55am. It got to 10.55am. Twitter said the separate, 10.55 service would run, but with a delayed start time. There was an announcement re: the 10.25 service, which was apparently still awaiting that all important signal clearance. The board refreshed to show the train would leave platform 7 at 11.01am, Twitter told me it would be leaving platform 8 at 11.11am. I was, by this point, quite understandably stressed.

So at 11.15am, I was on the platform at London Bridge in floods of tears, when a man asked me why I was crying. I told him. He said "If you don't mind my asking, why does that upset you so much?"

I should have told him I did mind his asking. I should have pushed him onto the tracks. Instead I just reiterated that I was cold and tired and had been there for an hour and would really like to go home. He shrugged, and walked off. There was obviously a large amount of sexism at play here; men are never asked to justify their emotional responses, much less by complete strangers. But yeah, I was probably overreacting by most people's standards. But the problem is, your standards are not one-size-fits all.

I have depression, as most of you know. I have done since I was 18. I don't know why that was the number that flicked the switch, I stumbled through the majority of my teen years perfectly happily, despite that in retrospect, they were unduly awful. But it was and here we are. I saw a therapist once. Well, six times actually (CBT isn't the longest of treatments). I should really go back. My therapist told me that I was also incredibly and abnormally anxious, which she didn't think was helping my general mood. I've never seen a psychiatrist (under-funding of NHS mental health services, come on down!), so I don't have a diagnosis, but lets say dysthymia and anxiety then. A winning combination, Like cheese and wine (NB: I have never actually had cheese and wine. Should I? Is it everything they say and more?)

Obviously, depression affects different people differently, but I know for some of us, it can turn minor irritations into insurmountable problems. Things hit us much harder than they do you. For you, your train being delayed is an inconvenience, for me, it's yet another thing that's going wrong for me. It's another reason to see the world around me as nothing but darkness. It's another reason to not want to carry on. (I'm not actually going to kill myself over Southeastern's sub-par service. I suspect that's what they want.) You got home an hour late, emailed Southeastern to complain and got on with your day. I got into bed and pretended to watch Snapped: Women Who Kill (come on guys, you KNOW me by now) for three hours, but really I couldn't concentrate because my head hurt from crying so much, so I was really just in bed shivering and staring into space for three hours. At 3pm I felt well enough to go and do the shopping I'd planned to do as soon as I got in. At 7pm I felt well enough to cook. At 9pm I felt fine again. It lay waste to my entire day, that minor inconvenience of yours.

So. Next time you're about to accuse someone of overreacting, maybe consider that things don;t impact on them the same way they do you. Trains are important, yo.